6. Policy directions: Avenues for the future of social inclusion in Spain

The introduction of the national minimum income scheme, Ingreso Mínimo Vital (IMV), in 2020 in Spain aimed to ensure a common, accessible income floor that promotes social inclusion across the country. Prior to this introduction, different Autonomous Communities of Spain (Comunidades Autónomas de España, hereafter “AACC”) operated minimum income schemes (MIS) (Rentas Mínimas) with different durations, amounts and eligibility conditions, making it challenging to transfer such rights across the country. The IMV reform is expected to possibly free up resources in the regions from the decentralised provision of MIS run by each AACC toward broader investment in support for social inclusion, which is the responsibility of the regions.

At the same time, improving social inclusion in Spain would require establishing several elements that are not yet entirely in place. First, there needs to be adequate income for those at risk of social exclusion. Currently, minimum income coverage rates of people at risk of social exclusion remain low in many regions, both for national IMV and regional programmes, which limit the impact on poverty reduction. Second, not all regions develop inclusion itineraries for the regional minimum income beneficiaries or IMV recipients. Recipients are not always assessed holistically in terms of support needs and referred to appropriate services. Third, there is a lack of a multidimensional approach to social inclusion that covers the most relevant interventions and policy areas.

In recent years, there has been a move towards enhanced co-ordination between social and employment services, which can be seen in the development of multiple pilot projects throughout the Spanish territory. While this is a positive step forward, which has led to a more integrated vision of inclusion, the analysis has also detected that other areas that are also key for the inclusion of vulnerable individuals, such as housing, health or care policies, are much less integrated with the actions and programmes developed by social services.

Finally, many European countries condition the allocation of minimum income benefits to behavioural requirements (“conditionalities”) and work incentives that seek to facilitate and reward labour market integration. Activity-related eligibility conditions and work incentives vary significantly across the regional MIS, indicating the need to reconsider how policies can best support recipients’ transitions towards active inclusion.

The recommendations below build upon the previous chapters of this report on the current barriers to social inclusion, the strengths and weaknesses in social inclusion and minimum income policies in Spain (Chapters 2 and 3) and upon Chapter 4 on good practices in other OECD countries, as well as the analysis in Chapter 5 with respect to the possibilities of introducing a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework. The recommendations are intended to highlight directions for reform based on elements of policies and programmes from other countries that can be appropriately adapted and integrated into the overall Spanish policy landscape.

Given the decentralised nature of responsibilities for inclusion, as well as the wide range of policies needed to address barriers, there is a need for broad consultation. Spain should establish a process of wide consultation with a range of stakeholders at the national level to involve different ministries responsible for areas related to social inclusion, the Institution of Social Security, public employment services (PES) and regional stakeholders to generate consensus on the way forward.

The national minimum income (IMV) in Spain is a means-tested benefit for those whose income in the previous year is below a certain threshold, depending on their household situation. Proof for the household requires that it has been the same for at least six months, living in the same address with a legal proof of residence. The benefit is available for Spanish citizens or foreigners with a legal residence in Spain for a minimum of one year, over 23 years old or above 18 if they have dependent children or have been in a public residential home the three years prior to turning 18.

While the IMV has been a welcome instrument to reduce poverty and generate equality of access and conditions throughout Spain, several studies highlight that it is not delivering according to expectations (see Chapter 3). First, the design features of the benefit exclude some people in situations of poverty or social exclusion. Such features have been designed to reduce the risk of fraud but contribute to not reaching all those at risk. Second, the IMV currently suffers from incomplete take-up, with estimations indicating that only 42% of eligible beneficiaries are actually receiving the benefit (AIReF, 2022[1]). Spain could improve a range of features of the IMV rules and the application process. It could also promote more exhaustive information to the general public to increase the take-up among eligible people and decrease the rate of rejected applications. In addition, Spain should also seek deeper knowledge of the reasons for non-take-up to feed into the policy design.

  • Consider modifying income tests to replace the income in the previous fiscal year (which, in most cases, is not representative of the claimant’s actual situation) with a timelier measure of income. In the medium run, Spain should promote more up-to-date information on people’s income from different sources, like the social security system, the tax agency and the information contained in the Social Digital Card. Spain should also consider changes in the IMV Law to define income in a different way. In the short run, in the absence of a reliable and consolidated source, Spain could request alternative proofs of income in terms of justification, such as currently done in Cataluña, Castilla y Leon and Comunidad Foral de Navarra, as well as in other EU countries. In order to not to slow down the approval process and guarantee the automatic assessment of the means test, this measure should be accompanied by adjustments in the access to relevant information and data processing. It is already possible to apply for the IMV and request that the means test be performed with the current year’s income, as declared by the applicant, highlighting that this recommendation is feasible. This is for the cases called “sudden poverty”, i.e. people who experience a significant loss of income in the current year. Spain could also make the requirements to justify household composition more flexible.

  • Work with regional authorities to improve the complementarity between IMV and regional MIS. Spain should work on extending the protocol with regions so that regions other than Cataluña, Aragón and Principado de Asturias participate in the support of those regional income beneficiaries requesting the IMV. Spain could also consider other arrangements with regions if deemed appropriate. Currently, Comunidad Foral de Navarra and País Vasco have signed an agreement for devolved management of the IMV, while other regions have expressed interest in such a formula. This is foreseen in the IMV legislation.

  • Consider amending benefit rules that currently exclude significant groups experiencing or at risk of poverty, such as refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and young people (18+).1 Spain could reconsider the age criteria for eligibility based on practices from other countries since, in Europe, 15 countries have no age criteria and 12 target individuals aged 18 and above. Spain could also consider alternative proofs than legal residence for foreign-born populations to be eligible for the IMV. However, such a measure should be analysed with care from a legal perspective and, if implemented, should be co-ordinated with strong social (and legal) integration pathways to avoid some foreign-born populations falling into a benefit dependency trap.

  • Ensure that the assets test does not exclude from access minimum income families that need urgent cash support and consistency between what is included in the IMV means test and other benefits (especially the non-contributory ones). Spain could consider exempting a minimum reasonable amount of savings from family assets.

  • Improve the readability and user-friendliness of the application process. Spain should improve the application process for the IMV by enhancing the use of plain, simple language. Good guidance through choice settings would also be helpful for applicants (both for paper and hybrid application methods).

  • Provide a range of options for the application to avoid penalising those with fewer digital skills or access while ensuring that the workers processing the claims are not overburdened. Spain should consider the possibility of greater availability of phone support for the applications and the possibility of a walk-in completion without appointments at National Social Security Institute (INSS) offices with sufficient capacity.

  • Consider partnerships between local INSS and social services in providing information on claims through supporting local social services offices, possibly through additional personnel and training to help potential beneficiaries in the administrative process.

  • Automate some of the validation checks on the justification for the application process.

  • Consider implementing time targets for the verification and resolution process and monitor its evolution over time and across the country. Spain should set time targets for the IMV to avoid claimants going destitute or applying for regional benefits while waiting to receive the IMV (and therefore increasing the administrative burden within regions and the INSS). Given that many AACC currently have a resolution period of two to three months, an initial target with such a maximum might be a good starting point, as it seems that 80% of IMV claims are solved within that period. In the medium term, consider aligning with the European Union recommendation of replying within 30 days.

  • Consider sending information to potential beneficiaries based on tax declarations and/or pre-filling application forms. The tax authorities and the INSS could automatically assess eligibility for the IMV with income, wealth, and household composition data and send a pre-filled form to potential claimants. Results of the current pilot with tax authorities could be useful to verify whether this measure has proved effective or whether automatic enrolment is possible based on income and age, which could be subject to final verifications and processing after the rest of the information has been provided.

  • Promote the information on the national minimum income to improve the knowledge of the population about its conditions. Spain should promote national information campaigns on IMV on general media and social media and include explanations about the possibility of cumulating IMV with employment or unemployment benefits. Spain should also improve the online simulator for IMV entitlements, asking people for more information about their possible prerequisites and giving them a more accurate amount of what they should receive.

  • Consider improving the existing system to share of information about IMV beneficiaries and amounts paid between the central government and regional authorities. Spain should better analyse the complementarity and subsidiarity of IMV and regional MIS by having detailed micro-data about individuals who are receiving both, only the IMV, and regional benefits, exclusively.

  • Improve transparency with respect to decisions. Spain should include the possibility of resubmitting information within a certain period in the case of a negative decision concerning the application, possibly through a meeting with a claims officer to understand the reasons for the initial rejection.

Following the introduction of the IMV, Spain has funded pilot projects in several regions and in partnership with the third sector, aiming to reach one in four beneficiaries of the benefit to offer itineraries to promote social inclusion (see Chapter 3). While not all recipients of the IMV require help in the area of social inclusion, it is possible that some do, and others would need to be offered support to find a job. Establishing appropriate mechanisms for needs assessment and referral to the appropriate agency would be important. At the same time, the division of competences between the central government, which funds the IMV and the regions, which are responsible for social inclusion, does not guarantee the continuation of such pilots unless structured pathways are designed and agreed upon with the regions. Not all regions currently offer such services to the beneficiaries of their own minimum income benefits (as discussed in Chapter 3). Discussions with regional stakeholders would thus need to build consensus on the best ways to promote inclusion.

  • Ensure the applicant is asked about all possible dimensions affecting active inclusion. Spain could design profiling methods using the information provided on the application for minimum income benefits to determine whether a person is employable and can search for work, whether a person requires specific activation or support in their job search, or whether that person has other needs prior to employment.

  • Implement a broader data-sharing process from INSS on various relevant dimensions for inclusion with regions, for example, by expanding the range of information in the Social Digital Card. Spain should share information on the beneficiaries’ related inclusion characteristics with the regional authorities in charge of social services and the PES. This is key for pre-filling the information ahead of any assessment and for the design of the inclusion itineraries.

  • Suggest to regions examples of ways to automate the assessment process so that information provided during the application is directly included in the assessment tool. Spain could facilitate the process with regional stakeholders on adapting the assessment tool for another region or consider tools tested in recent pilots or suggested by the Social Inclusion Network (Red de Inclusión Social). Spain could also discuss with regional authorities and work with them on standardising the assessment of the inclusion programmes best suited for the claimant within a region when this is not already the case.

  • Consider the feasibility of a joint assessment between employment and social services to design personalised itineraries for minimum income recipients. Spain should build on the experience of Comunidad Foral de Navarra and several pilot projects to assess the effectiveness and opportunities for implementing a joint assessment on a sustainable basis. For such purposes, Spain should consider having social workers included within the regional and local PES to facilitate the assessment process if this is appropriate in the regional context.

  • If a joint assessment is not deemed feasible, determine the best agency to perform the initial needs assessment and the case management process. Spain should monitor the assessment process results to ensure that the first interview of the referral process rests with the appropriate agency. In this sense, collecting statistics on the percentage of employable and non-employable beneficiaries remains essential. Spain should also ensure that case managers responsible for the individualised itineraries have well-established channels for referrals to other services.

Research cited in this publication shows that individuals at risk of exclusion in Spain typically face more than one barrier in their inclusion process, such as monetary, labour, health and housing barriers (Chapter 1). However, the co-ordination of social inclusion services and benefits is still insufficient in most AACC, with social services commonly being the main, and sometimes only, entry point for persons with inclusion needs (Chapter 2). The combination of multiple barriers with insufficient co-ordination between policy areas can lead to a lack of comprehensive service offers when designing pathways for inclusion.

Horizontal co-ordination across levels of governance and between thematic areas (between services such as employment or social services) is a crucial factor for the inclusion process of those who benefit from minimum income support. Co-ordination mechanisms at a general administrative level, such as the existence of a collaborative network to improve integrated services or to constitute interdepartmental bodies or the existence of protocols and joint actions between services at regional/local levels, favour a comprehensive intervention addressing different needs and barriers faced by the beneficiaries and their households. Likewise, gaps in co-ordination between institutions at national, regional and local levels are detected in the transfer of information regarding IMV claimants and beneficiaries. This can lead to challenges in the co-ordination with the regional minimum incomes and starting itineraries since the application of regional minimum income requires that claimants have applied for the national scheme in advance.

The barriers faced by the most disadvantaged groups should be addressed through collective, integrated service provision, with a special focus on reaching the most vulnerable groups so their access to social inclusion is guaranteed.

  • Ensure that there is a more intense and better use of the existing dialogue structures between the central government and regional authorities for discussions regarding the IMV and the regional MIS. Spain should ensure that the IMV Monitoring Committee (established to discuss and make decisions about future improvements in the provision of the IMV) is used effectively to co-ordinate the IMV with the regional MIS and for related social and labour market inclusion pathways.

  • Work with regional and local stakeholders to build a consensus on the general principle that all IMV and minimum income recipients should be entitled to a personalised inclusion plan if they need it. Recognising that regions have the exclusive competence in the design and operation of social inclusion programmes, the central government should exchange with relevant stakeholders to make sure that actions are put in place to ensure that the personalised inclusion plan is person-centred and guarantees access to interventions across different services.

  • Consider appropriate funding solutions for co-ordinated interventions. Spain should design joint funding solutions between the central, regional and local levels to allow for the uniform delivery of social inclusion services for IMV recipients, as it promotes co-operation with the municipal services closest to citizens.

  • Facilitate the development of the information technology (IT) infrastructure, allowing data sharing between national, regional and local levels and explore interoperability solutions. Spain should promote the implementation of a common national registry (accessible to both INSS and regional authorities) and the systematic use of data exchange platforms.

  • Develop an approach to establishing and sharing guidelines for social service provision with the regional stakeholders through the appropriate co-operative structures in order to ensure a co-ordinated approach to minimum income recipients to ensure consistency and quality. Spain could develop service guidelines and strategies adapted to the regional context to outline the general social services principles that apply to all clients. Furthermore, the guidelines could establish clear processes for social workers to follow in terms of referrals to and co-operation with other organisations and service providers if this is agreed upon with regional stakeholders.

  • Discuss with regions to implement case management as a permanent practice for a comprehensive and co-ordinated service delivery to minimum income beneficiaries. Spain would need to ensure that the roles and responsibilities of case managers are clearly defined and that there are supportive processes in place to lower the administrative burdens faced by case managers, such as clear referral pathways and processes or agreed co-ordination mechanisms.

  • Promote a long-term approach to establishing structured referral mechanisms for co-ordinated action or joint interventions at the regional and local levels. Spain should promote the implementation of a framework for co-operation across public service providers, particularly employment and social services, and offer tailor-made and comprehensive measures, as it brings together the different care services under the same umbrella of intervention. Spain should also strengthen co-ordination with other areas, such as health, education and housing, in order to address the circumstances of minimum income beneficiaries in a multidimensional approach since protocols among social and employment services are already in place in some regions. Spain could also favour joint interventions of professionals from different services.

A number of elements present in the Spanish inclusion framework provide incentives for active inclusion. For instance, transition to employment programmes for minimum income recipients is present in many regions, and the new work incentive for IMV beneficiaries makes taking up work significantly more attractive, particularly for very low earnings and for families with children. Conditionality strategies in some regions prioritise the personal circumstances of recipients over their immediate participation in activation programmes. Moreover, the introduction of behavioural unconditionality in some modalities of the regional benefits is a strong step towards a full income guarantee system (conditional only on insufficient income).

On the other hand, several weaknesses exist in the incentives for inclusion. In some regions, the focus on conditionality linked only to employment may result in the level of support from services not matching individual needs. The lack of activation policies (such as job search support or counselling) accompanying the IMV employment incentive and time-limited grants can hamper beneficiaries from finding a full-time job. The IMV benefit may retain beneficiaries who work in low-wage or part-time jobs because of the means test on earnings and the indefinite duration of the benefit. Finally, not all regions provide personalised itineraries for inclusion nor provide incentives for recipients to seek support. Spain could further incentivise both inclusion and work incentives.

  • Find solutions for reinforcing and encouraging participation in itineraries and/or activation measures. Spain should promote a discussion with regional authorities on ensuring that active participation in support measures is well adapted to the beneficiary’s personal circumstances and avoiding a mismatch between activation measures (such as a strict job search) and the needs of the beneficiaries, which may result in conditionality not encouraging a job search. Regarding the use of active inclusion for IMV recipients, modifying the legislation to include explicit conditionality requirements appears challenging given the constitutional and governance structure whereby regions are competent and responsible for inclusion itineraries. Spain could develop agreements with regions to ensure that IMV recipients are also registered as regional MIS beneficiaries.

  • Consider working with regional authorities on the possibility of active inclusion being a measure at the household level, in particular for the children of IMV beneficiaries to attend school. Spain should work with local authorities to ensure that this does not introduce overly burdensome requirements in terms of the checks they need to perform and improve the communication channels and IT infrastructure before introducing such principles.

  • Consider the combined effect of national and local in-kind benefits when considering inclusion incentives. Some regions provide supplements and open access to other services to minimum income recipients, such as wider support for healthcare, additional childcare and transport. Spain should work with regional stakeholders to ensure that such “secondary” benefits are contemplated in the active inclusion measures, as they can provide additional incentives for inclusion and work.

  • Future revisions should consider further adjustments to the work incentive measure introduced for IMV recipients. The work incentive introduced by Royal Decree 789/2022 in 2022, which entered into force in 2023 and allows IMV recipients to cumulate the benefit with income from work, has a substantial impact on the incomes of claimants taking on very low-paid work (i.e. those who work few hours at a low wage) and those with children. The incentive is lower for full-time workers. The biannual reviews of the programme foreseen by the Royal Decree will provide an opportunity to analyse the impact of the work incentives package on households whose members have the opportunity to increase the number of worked hours, notably on potential second earners.

  • Consider broadening the eligibility requirements for common activation programmes jointly developed by regions and the national employment service to IMV recipients. Spain could encourage IMV beneficiaries to benefit from activation policies to find sustainable employment if an assessment recommends it.

  • Consider incentivising geographical mobility for IMV recipients to encourage mobility within the country when job opportunities emerge in other territories through national public employment. Spain should ensure appropriate financial compensation for the mobility of jobseekers who are IMV beneficiaries. Spain could assist IMV recipients with post-placement support and relocations, co-ordinated by regional and local PES.

When the preparations for the new IMV scheme started in 2020, the practices of linking data across registers for analytical purposes within social and labour market affairs were fairly modest. Spain had to make considerable efforts to access sufficient data to be able to conduct ex ante evaluations of this new benefit scheme. The ex ante evaluation centred mainly around the first of the two objectives of the IMV, which is income redistribution with a focus on poverty eradication. The second objective of the IMV scheme, furthering social inclusion and labour market participation, was mostly neglected in the ex ante evaluation of the IMV, partly due to the difficulties in designing the specific policy elements related to social and labour market inclusion. It would be paramount for Spain to design the M&E framework simultaneously while designing new models of social inclusion to ensure that the relevant data are collected from the start and the future evaluation needs are taken into account. In order to introduce an M&E framework for the new social inclusion model for IMV beneficiaries, Spain could consider the following actions.

  • Draw up a broader strategy for the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework that outlines the ultimate objective, stakeholders and funding scheme for designing and implementing such a system, in addition to guiding the framework of specific indicators, methodology and data.

  • Consider the implications for the new M&E framework in terms of variables to be included in the data collection, data collection mechanisms, staff and skill requirements and possible evaluation methodologies while designing the different elements of a new social inclusion model or models (SIM).

  • Set the M&E framework for the SIM in co-operation and consultation with the responsible national authority and all relevant stakeholders (ministries in charge of employment and social services, national PES, AACC and potentially others).

  • Set the objective of the monitoring framework for the new SIM of the IMV recipients as a tool for national authorities and other stakeholders. Spain should use the framework to ensure that the resources to support the IMV beneficiaries are available, the steps necessary to integrate this group are made, and the different related interventions are successful. Spain should monitor the different (sub-)interventions by participant subgroups to ensure that policies reach and support the target groups without discrimination or “creaming”.

  • Include indicators to monitor the SIM implementation in terms of quantity and quality to fully comprehend the progress in integrating IMV beneficiaries. Spain should aim at indicators with a harmonised methodology across Spain, regardless of whether national-level data or subnational data are used. Spain should include indicators along the entire results chain and for different types of support to facilitate insights on which policy components might need to be adapted or strengthened. Spain could also establish a narrower set of key performance indicators (or “royal” indicators) within the overall monitoring system to enable stakeholders to quickly comprehend whether or not the overall SIM delivers the expected results.

  • Develop a comprehensive and systematic evaluation framework for inclusion policies. Spain should draw insights from pilot programmes that made use of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) to evaluate social inclusion programmes to develop the framework. Spain should consider a framework that incorporates various types of evaluations, such as formative, process, outcome, impact (notably including policies’ impact on poverty reduction and on employment), and cost-effectiveness evaluations. It is crucial that the evaluations not only examine objective results but also include users’ experiences. The framework should be designed to ensure that evaluation is a continuous and integral part of policy implementation, and the evaluation methods chosen should be tailored to the needs and context of the specific policies and programmes.

  • Broaden the scope of evaluation by incorporating non-experimental counterfactual impact evaluation methods. Spain should consider a range of evaluation methods, especially when RCTs are not feasible due to budget or time constraints, compromised rigour or ethical issues. These methods can be particularly valuable for evaluating established or complex programmes.

  • Promote collaboration and knowledge sharing for the evaluation. Spain should maintain and expand the collaboration established during ongoing RCT pilot programmes across various institutional levels between state, regions, municipalities and third-sector institutions. Knowledge sharing and training on the design, implementation and management of impact evaluations should be systematically carried out to enhance the capacity of all stakeholders involved.

  • Strengthen the use of administrative data through an interoperable national system. Spain should continue to leverage administrative data for research and evaluation purposes. These data are relatively cost-efficient and can reduce potential non-response bias compared to survey data. This process could be achieved through the development of a comprehensive and inoperable national system for inclusion services and their users, involving the integration of existing data systems like the System of Users of Social Services (SIUSS) and the Information System of Public Employment Services (SISPE), and encouraging their uniform adoption across municipalities and AACC.

  • Encourage greater adoption of harmonised existing tools and databases across the country while also emphasising the importance of embracing a common taxonomy and data models. Enhancing the accessibility and usage of tools like the SIUSS and the Single Social History (Historia Social Única, HSU) can promote homogeneity in statistical analysis across the AACC and provide a comprehensive view of individuals’ needs and use of social services, leading to more effective M&E of inclusion programmes.

  • Leverage technologies like data warehouses, data lake solutions and business intelligence tools. Spain could use such additional technologies to efficiently prepare data for analytics and create tailored dashboards for various user groups. Spain could also make use of visualisation functionalities to quickly understand trends and comparisons across various subgroups, enhancing the overall efficiency in the M&E of inclusion services.

  • Consider the needs and scope for increasing staffing levels tasked with M&E activities regarding the IMV. Spain could add capacity in terms of staff, which would support the timely design and implementation of key analytical activities and strengthen links with different stakeholders as necessary.

  • Raise awareness among staff managing external registers on the importance of evidence-based policy making and support this process by establishing data exchange between registers.

  • Build a network of external experts to co-operate regularly to foster M&E activities. Spain could leverage external experts, for example, through a community of practice or by discussing M&E challenges and solutions.

  • Increase researchers’ interest in evaluating social inclusion by making data available via a secure data-sharing mechanism for research purposes. Spain should facilitate data access for synergies between the evaluation needs of the national authorities and evaluation activities carried out by researchers. It could also establish systematic public procurement processes for generating additional evidence on some of the key dimensions of inclusion for the IMV beneficiaries and allocate sufficient funding to these activities.


[1] AIReF (2022), Primera Opinión AIReF Ingreso Mínimo Vital, Autoridad Independiente de Responsabilidad Fiscal, Madrid.


← 1. The IMV is accessible to some emancipated minors and under-23-year-old individuals under some circumstances. But these remain exceptions, and the general rule does not allow them to apply.

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